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Resolving disputes between businesses

The Offices of the South Australian and Australian Small Business Commissioners were established to advocate for the interests and concerns of small businesses and to assist in the resolution of business-to-business and business-to-government disputes.

Office of the South Australian Small Business Commissioner

The Office of the South Australian Small Business Commissioner (SASBC) was established by the Small Business Commissioner Act 2011 (SA). The first Commissioner was appointed by the Governor on 29 March 2012.

Section 5 of the Act sets out the functions of the Commissioner, which include to:

  • receive and investigate complaints by and on behalf of small businesses in their dealings with other businesses, state or local government bodies;
  • facilitate the resolution of such complaints through measures such as mediation or representations to the other businesses, state or local government bodies;
  • provide information to small businesses to assist them to make decisions about their dealings;
  • create and enforce industry codes under the Fair Trading Act 1987 (SA);
  • monitor and investigate compliance with the Retail and Commercial Leases Act 1995 (SA); and
  • monitor, investigate and advise the Minister about matters that adversely affact small businesses.

Under section 12 of the Act, the Commissioner has the power to require a person to give information required by the Comissioner in the performance of the Commissioner's functions. The maximum penalty for failing to provide the information within the time specified by the Comissioner is a fine of $20 000.

Mediation is provided at low cost (currently $195 for each day or part day) or no cost, if the Commissioner is satisfied that it is appropriate to waive the fee in any particular case [see Small Business Commissioner Regulations 2012 (SA)].

The Office of the Small Business Commissioner is also mandated under the Farm Debt Mediation Act 2018 (SA) to arrange mediation for disputes between farmers and creditors relating to debt incurred in the conduct of farming operations [see Farm Debt Mediation Act 2018 (SA) ss 20, 22].

For more information, see the Small Business Commissioner SA website.

The Small Business Commissioner’s role in dispute resolution includes Franchising Disputes under the SA Franchise Code, see the Small Business Commissioner SA's page on the Franchising Industry Dispute Resolution Code.

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman

The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) was established in early 2016 and replaces the Australian Small Business Commissioner.

It advocates on behalf of Australian small business and provides information regarding setting up, running, growing and closing a business. The Ombudsman also offers a dispute resolution referral service, including where to get help.

More information about the ASBFEO is found on the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman's website.

Resolving disputes between businesses  :  Last Revised: Fri Aug 31st 2018
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.